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Why is Agility so Important for Successful Leadership?

Agility is an important skill-set for successful leaders to navigate their business and organization in a disruptive world.

Written by Leonardo Hadi · 1 min read >
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What is Agility?

Agility is the ability to think, understand, and move quickly and effectively in responding to threats and opportunities. Agility is an important skill-set for successful leaders to navigate their business and organization in a disruptive world.

Agility is a social process. The best leaders achieve agility via influence that gets people working effectively together. This is a true definition of successful leadership. 

Why is Agility so Important?

Today’s business environment is moving very fast. The technology revolution has fuelled disruption that forces businesses to adapt to new environments rapidly continually.

Any business that fails to transform its business model will die. A classic example is Blockbuster and Kodak.

Both companies were multi-billion dollars corporations that dominated their markets for decades until new entrants came and disrupted their business models with new technology.

Netflix disrupted Blockbuster’s brick-and-mortar business with internet video streaming. Meanwhile, Blockbuster had a chance to buy Netflix for $50 million. Read more.

Digital camera technology completely wiped out Kodak’s market for chemical film. Ironically, the first digital camera was invented by Kodak in 1975. Read more. 

Both stories from Blockbuster and Kodak have a resemblance. They were both very successful and innovative but failed to be an agile organization. Blockbuster and Kodak failed to respond to threats and opportunities quickly and effectively before it was too late.

An agile organization requires an agile team and culture, and it is all started by their leaders. 

What Can Leaders Do to Create an Agile Organization?

Before leaders can make the business transformation, they have to develop an agile team and organizational culture. Dr. Gregory Northcraft, a Professor Emeritus of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has a couple of ways to achieve this.

The first step is to differentiate between being a manager or a leader.

Managers rely on “authority” to get things done, while leaders rely on “persuasion.” Managers implicitly use “coerce,” a method to achieve something by using force or threats to people around them. When managers as authority figures ask people to do something, they often do it because if they don’t, they will lose their job. 

On the other hand, leaders convince people around them that they want to do something to make themselves better off because it is something that they have to do anyway.

There are a couple of ways to achieve this by being transformational and transactional leaders.

Transformational leaders use the goals as the reward. So whatever the goals the leaders want to achieve, the leaders make the people around them feel that it is in their best interest to achieve them.

Transactional leaders give a reward in exchange for achieving the goals. For example, leaders give higher bonuses to achieve certain business targets at the end of the year. 

At the end of the day, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leaders get followers to want to do what the leader needs them to do.” This is the real definition of true successful leadership.

People don’t have to rely on authority because they want to do what the leaders want them to do. 

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash. 


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Written by Leonardo Hadi
Quantitative hedge fund investor and Professional Engineer, holding an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Profile

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